Retirement is not an end. It’s an experiment in Activity, Relationships, and Time (ART). And like all experiments, the ART of retirement involves some trial and error. It’s not easy leaving behind the routine, the people, and the places that were such a big part of your life while you were working.
But a successful retirement is “work” too, especially at the beginning. Trying to settle on a new routine that will keep you happy and connected isn’t as easy as it sounds. You will make mistakes. You will feel frustrated. You might even feel a little bit lost.
One easy way to smooth this challenging transition is to plan ahead. If your retirement is just around the corner, start thinking about what your retirement ART is going to look like, and how you plan on practicing it.
Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he putters around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV … and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.
We chuckle when we see a scenario like this play out in a movie or TV show. But Retired Hubby or Wifey Syndrome is a very real problem. Many senior couples have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time.
Often, this is the moment when spouses realize they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a hammock in the backyard. The other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.
The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energizing. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity or nonprofit that’s close to your heart. You and your spouse can indulge your inner foodies with weekly date nights to try out all the new hot spots in town.
Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent 40 hours every week with at your job recede from your day-to-day routine.
But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Your social calendar also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organize your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan date nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.
Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. On the one hand, without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. On the other hand, many seniors still react to retirement like it’s an end to dread. They feel like their time is slipping away.
But these outdated notions just don’t suit today’s retirement or today’s retirees. Retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organize their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.
Like we said at the top, retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your schedule with activities, only to find that having less structure allows you to explore your options a bit more. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part time job. You might like it. You might not.
There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working with us to refine your ART, the more beautiful your retirement picture will be.